Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Luxuriating in John Paul the Great: a list of the "Ten Accomplishments" of the 263rd successor to Peter, according to a fervent admirer.

In the last of his three visits to his native Poland, Pope John Paul II,
famous for his love of nature and an athlete in his younger days, takes a break in the mountains of Malopolska

For  two weeks or so prior to the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, I had been deep into reading various sources on their lives in preparation for my trip to Rome for the great event of their joint canonization in St. Peter's Square. After giving you, my readers, accounts (and photos) of actual scenes in Rome last Friday and Saturday,  just prior to the great event, then the event itself last Sunday and the immediate post-event, I'd like to devote my next few blogs to analyses of the contributions of these two new great saints in the human and spiritual spheres.  

For starters, let me feature here a compilation by Dr. Luis Esteban Latorre, Ph.D. in Philosophy of History (his thesis on the British philosopher/historian Christopher Dawson) and a tenured professor emeritus of the Dept. of European Languages at UP Diliman, of what he considers the "THE TEN ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF ST.JOHN PAUL II." 

Dr. Latorre stresses that this list is based on a 45-minute podcast-format lecture by American writer and professor George Weigel, delivered at the Colorado Catholic College in Denver, Colorado. Weigel is  acknowledged as one of the world's leading authorities on the Catholic Church and a prominent biographer of newly-minted saint John Paul II.


As Dr. Latorre explained to this blogger, "On my own initiative, I ventured to write a summary of the great writer GEORGE WEIGEL's ideas which are found throughout his two-volume biography of (then Blessed) John Paul II." Latorre expressed the hope that "this summary will help you organize your thoughts and  be a great help to you in writing your series of blogs, preparatory to your trip to Rome for the GREAT CANONIZATION of APRIL 27, 2014."  

Going through Latorre's summary list based on George Weigel's lecture/biography of St. John Paul II, this blogger realized that the best thing to do is to publish this list as it's quite comprehensive. Then what I plan to do is to pick out certain points he raised and illustrate some of them, mainly by citing vivid and colorful anecdotes about JPII that Weigel so excellently researched and captured in his monumental two volumes, titled "Witness to Hope," (a New York Times best-seller) and its sequel, "The End and the Beginning."

I began reading through Weigel's books myself over the past week and continued it aboard the plane to Europe;  and indeed JPII came across so vivid and captivating that I hardly slept on the long flight. Weigel's books are out of stock in Manila, but if ever you folks could get hold of them, you'd simply be amazed by all that you'll learn about the 263rd successor of Peter, whom the world refers to now as "St.John Paul the Great."

But  just so that you admirers of St. John XXIII won't think I am neglecting him or playing favorites, I shall devote another blog to this much-loved pontiff from Bergamo, Italy, whom the world likes to refer to as "the good pope"---centering mainly on his monumental achievement: the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65.


Here's Dr. Esteban Latorre's summary of points in George Weigel's work, which he titled "Ten Accomplishments of John Paul II":

"1) In less than a year after he was elected Pope in 1978, JPII wrote his signature encyclical REDEMPTOR HOMINIS in which he defined the true meaning of Christian Humanism vis a vis the Secular Humanism of the 20th Century, which was corroding the Catholic Church specially through the different forms of MODERNIST HERESIES.  This was a very deep philosophy of the former Karol Wojtyla which he brought to Rome for the first time in the 1960s, when at the age of 39 he attended the Second Vatican Council as a young auxiliary bishop of Krakow (perhaps the youngest bishop delegate).

"2). As Pope, JPII clearly defined the most outstanding characteristic of his Christian Humanism.  It was not man-centered nor a "selfie" type of religion but one which was based on giving of self to God, and to neighbor for the love of God.  This, incidentally, was re-echoed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his first encyclical DEUS CARITAS EST.  The big difference between Secular Humanism and Christian Humanism is that the latter is based on LOVE and not on selfishness or egoism.

"3). From JPII's first pastoral visit to his home country Poland in 1979, within 10 years--- with the "collaboration" of two great world leaders (US President Reagan and UK PM Thatcher) who believed in the Judaeo-Christian world view against the Marxist-Leninist philosophy being propagated from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe---COMMUNISM was literally toppled down. This was symbolically represented by the crumbling of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  JPII, certainly not singled-handedly, but with his personal charismatic leadership -- which only a man of his greatness could have handled---helped destroy world communism.

In fact, George Weigel asserts that the day JPII kissed the soil of his native Poland as he descended from his jet plane there for the first time as Pope, "that symbolic gesture of the Vicar of Christ marked the beginning of the end for Marxist Communism."

"4). To the new emerging democracies in all seven continents which were awakened to a new political reality after the end of the Cold War, JPII cautioned and taught them that their new-found freedoms had to be used well.  Freedom is a two-edged sword which could be used as a weapon for building a Christian Humanism in the world, or it could be abused and bring about more problems and woes to the world.

"5). He revived the Catholic Church's interest in a genuine ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT, began by his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI, which had already been partially abandoned even by the mainstream Protestant churches.  JPII pushed for real unity among Christian religions and even non-Christian faiths.  This was clearly expressed in his Apostolic Exhortation UNUM SINT.

"6). MORE ON ECUMENISM: JPII was not one to believe in superficial and false ecumenical initiatives pushed by pseudo-reformists of the post-Vatican II era, specially in the Liturgical Movements, wherein they tried to erase the very basic doctrinal and disciplinary differences between the Catholic forms of worship and the religious services of other religions.  He advocated a deep study of theology which became the basis of Benedict XVI's famous "reform of the reform" of the Liturgical Renewal of the post-Vatican II era.

"7). He maintained a steady and strong position on the TRUE DIALOGUE based on TRUTH (not COMPROMISE)  betweeen FAITH on one hand, and REASON & SCIENCE on the other hand.  As a very deep philosopher well-entrenched in Thomistic Philosophy (Benedict XVI was more Augustinian than Thomistic), JPII was not afraid to tackle the centuries-old conflicts between SCIENCE and the CATHOLIC FAITH;  the usual issues like the Galileo question, the Creationist interpretation of the book of Genesis of the Bible, etc.

"8). In the Pro-Life Movement, he re-affirmed Paul VI's HUMANAE VITAE, and early in his pontificate he wrote the magna carta for Christian families:  FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO.  More than just championing  anti-abortion and anti-divorce currents (all based on the contraceptive mentality that had infected even Catholic priests and bishops, as evidenced by the weak opposition to the RH Bill in our country the Philippines), JPII wrote, talked and preached about a new THEOLOGY OF THE BODY, updating all the traditional Catholic norms of morality on sex, marriage, reproduction, family-life, etc. with very deep and serious research by family experts he hired to work in the Vatican to advise him on this new THEOLOGY OF THE BODY.

"9). JPII made sure that all these efforts of reform would be "canonized" or "crystallized" by two monumental works of compilation and updating:  the NEW CODE OF CANON LAW and the new official CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.  His entire 28-year pontificate was a living catechesis, bringing the Gospel of Christ and the doctrine of the Church to every corner of the world, comparable only to the apostolic journeys of the great Apostle Paul.

"10). In his person, in his pontificate, in his documents and writings, and in the sufferings he physically bore in his body after dozens of surgical interventions (specially after the attempted assasination of the Turk ALI AGCA whom he eventually personally forgave), the great John Paul II synthesized in his person the great mind of a world-class intellectual enshrined in a human body full of great humanity, overflowing with the GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.

"In Karol Wojtyla, eventually JPII, we witnessed a living example of the DEPTH OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP lived to the most heroic extreme.  He was truly a great, great saint and after the great Popes like Gregory the Great and Leo the Great whom the Church has unstintingly recognized as "Great,"  we have a newly canonized saint who truly deserves the title SAINT POPE JOHN PAUL THE GREAT!"

Dr. Latorre adds that "of course, we should never forget that behind all this was his very early consecration to the Blessed Mother of God.  Karol Wojtyla, very early in life, had consecrated his entire being to the Mother of God, thus his Papal Motto:  'TOTUS TUUS!' (in Filipino, "ako'y iyong-iyo!"). 

Many thanks for sharing your "list" with my readers, Dr. Latorre.